A warm All Things Crime Blog welcome to Darlene Owen who has graciously contributed this personal story of how — as a school girl in Canada — she lived through the kidnapping, rape and murder of Kristen French, and how it changed her and her community forever.

Who can ever forget the kidnapping and murder of St. Catherines school girl Kristen French?  I know I haven’t, I can’t, and I never will.

It was on Thursday, April 16th, 1992, that Kristen French; who was only one month away from celebrating her 16th birthday, was walking home from high school, and was approached by Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo.

I was in my senior year of high school at the time.  Like Kristen, I attended a Catholic high school.  I attended an all-girls school and like Kristen, I wore a school uniform.

palI still remember so vividly watching the news and seeing and hearing the police report that a school girl had been abducted and was missing.  There were reports that there had been witnesses to her abduction, and that she had been seen getting into a white Camaro.  It was believed that it was two males that had abducted her.

It really hit home for me because she was close to my age.  I could not imagine what horror she must have been going through.  I also could not imagine the sheer terror she must have been feeling, or what her parents and loved ones were going through.

I remember praying so hard that she be found safe and sound.  I prayed that if she was being kept captive, that she could somehow get away to safety.

Watching her dad’s plea on the news brought me to tears.  I was hoping and praying just like everyone else in our city — that she be found alive.

Her school chose a green ribbon, and called it the Green Ribbon of Hope, which symbolized their search for Kristen.  I remember myself as well as many of my friends from school wearing the Green Ribbon of Hope, all in our effort to support the search to find Kristen.

Kristen however had been murdered, and her naked body was found on April 30th, lying in a ditch.  All of her beautiful long hair had been cut off.

threeI remember crying when the news came out that she had been found dead.  I, like others, had hoped and prayed that this young girl, who had her entire life ahead of her, would be found alive.  Her abduction and murder really hit close to home.  The killer could have chosen me or any one of my friends.  I too wore a school-girl uniform consisting of a kilt.  I too had very long dark hair.  And like many other school-age girls, after my friends and I headed our separate ways after school, I walked home by myself.

Knowing that her murderer(s) were still at large was very scary for me.  I was a very strong willed, independent young woman, but her abduction and murder made me very nervous about traveling anywhere on my own.  I was forever looking over my shoulder and avoiding any type of chit-chat or casual encounter with any strange man.  To me, every single male was a possible kidnapper.

What was so worrisome about Kristen French’s abduction was the fact that she was abducted in broad daylight, and in a church parking lot.  It was a very brazen attack.

karEventually Kristen French’s murderers would be caught.  As more information came out about her abduction, it was revealed that it was Karla who called out to Kristen under the pretense of needing directions.  While Kristen approached Karla and assisted with giving her directions, Paul Bernardo attacked Kristen from behind and forced her, at knife point, into his car.

Finding that out changed me forever.  At one time, I would have been just like Kristen French, and I would not have thought twice about approaching and helping a woman that was stopped and had asked me for directions.  But I now knew that it was not wise to approach any stopped car, even if it was a woman that was seeking my help.

I will never let myself approach a stopped vehicle; even if it appears that it is a woman who needs my help.  And when someone has approached my vehicle to speak to me, whether it is a man or a woman, I do not roll my window down.  I never let my guard down.

childI find that the abduction and murder of Kristen French truly changed me.  I no longer feel as safe as I once had.  While I still believe that for the most part people are good, I do know that there are people in this world that can, and given the opportunity, will do terrible things to others.  I never let my guard down.  I am always alert and am what one would label as “street smart”.  I have also raised my children to think like I do, and to also be street smart.

At Paul Bernardo’s trial, Kristen French’s mom Donna read her victim impact statement.  She said:

 

“The loss of Kristen has had a tremendous impact on so very many people.  Not only has her loss had a damaging effect on her family and relatives…her death has had a devastating effect, not only on our community…but it has effected people across Canada.”

And, heartbreakingly, she was so very right.

 

Click on the following links to read previous Karla posts:

Karla Homolka Psychological Evaluation, Part One: Abuse Victim or Just Plain Evil?

Watching Karla Homolka: It’s a Family Affair

Was Karla Homolka a Normal Child? The Answer Is a Resounding No

Is Karla Homolka the Most Hated Woman in North America?

The Karla Homolka Files: A U.S. Perspective on Karla Homolka’s Plea Bargain

Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo: Canada’s Most Notorious Serial Killer Case

 

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